The summer may be winding down, but that doesn't mean you have to put away the grill for the year. There are still plenty of nice days left to master the grill and get quick, delicious dinners on the table. The first step is knowing the basics. Although there are many brands, shapes, and sizes of grills on the market, there are a few things that will always stay the same. Turn to these five tips for grilling success every time.
1. Let your hand be the heat guide.
Some grills have built-in thermometers so you can always see the heat level on the inside of the grill. Whether you have one or not, your hand can help you determine how hot the grill is.
- High heat: Hold your hand about about four to six inches above the grill grate, palm down. If you can hold it one to three seconds before you need to pull your hand away, you're at high heat.
- Medium heat: Hold your hand about about four to six inches above the grill grate, palm down. If you can hold it four to six seconds before you need to pull your hand away, you're at medium heat.
- Low heat: Hold your hand about about four to six inches above the grill grate, palm down. If you can hold it seven to 10 seconds before you need to pull your hand away, you're at low heat.
Pro Tip: Remember to preheat the grill, so the grates are also hot. An open flame will always feel warm, but the grates need a few minutes to come to temperature as well.
2. Use both direct and indirect heat.
Whether you have a gas or charcoal grill, it's important to create heat zones. A preheated grill should at least have two options: direct and indirect heat.
- Direct heat: This means the item you're grilling is directly above open flame. It's the hotter part of the grill and great for searing or getting nice grill lines, however, it's possible to overcook the outside of the item before the inside is done to your liking. This is where indirect heat comes into play.
- Indirect heat: This is a separate part of the grill that is still hot because the grill is preheated, but there are no flames directly below the grate. This setup gives you the best of both worlds. You can start something over direct heat and move it to indirect to finish it.
3. Keep the lid on or off.
This actually depends on what you're making. Every time you open or close the lid, the temperature of the grill is bound to fluctuate. Thin, quick-cooking cuts of meat could be fine without using the lid at all. Thick cuts of meat can benefit from the lid holding in heat. No matter what you choose, just make sure to close the lid as quickly as possible after opening it.
4. Sauce at the end.
Grilled food often benefits from a final sauce or glaze to add even more flavor to a dish. You might be inclined to add sauce as soon as you put the meat on the grill to add more flavor, but it's actually better to wait. The more sauce you add for a lengthy amount of time, the more likely the meat will start to char or burn on the outside. Brush or drizzle on about 1/3 or 1/2 of the sauce near the end of the cook time and save the rest for serving to get the most out of your ingredients.
5. Let it rest.
You've done it! You've perfectly cooked that steak or pork tenderloin and you can't wait to impress your friends or family. Resist every urge you have to slice into the meat immediately. Resting allows the juices in the meat to evenly distribute and settle. If you cut into it immediately, you'll leave more flavor on the cutting board — even five to 10 minutes will make for a better meal.